What we have currently is not a peoples’ police that serve the public, but a privatized political police.
That was an opinion expressed recently by a retired senior police officer, in a private conversation.
We have been told that a large number of police personnel is assigned to companies, politicians and other very important public notaries, including traditional rulers. The result is that the number of police personnel serving the public is inadequate. Does this not tell the reader that some Nigerians are more equal than others?
With Mr M. Smith taking over the chairmanship of the Police Service Commission from Mr. Mike Okiro, there is a need to bring up certain issues for his consideration. In the process of restructuring the police in the past, the result was that Nigeria Police became so fragmented that effective coordination and cooperation among the various units became lacking. They rarely work in synergy!
With the creation of the EFCC, for example, whose personnel are drawn largely from the police, has there been smooth partnership and collaboration with the Central Criminal Registry? Profiling of criminals and the utilization of available personal dozzier of all categories of criminals in the country are critical and expensive exercises. Are known criminals under surveillance?
The fact that sponsors and financiers of Boko Haram terrorists within and outside Nigeria have not been identified gives the impression that something is missing in the effective functions of the Intelligence Unit of the Police.
Similarly, the fact that posting of police personnel to private companies is paid for, demands that such internally generated revenue should be accounted for properly. An ex-police-officer-Senator who blew a whistle on this issue was described as a deserter, rather than his allegation being investigated. There is the Police Trust Fund longing to be funded from internally generated funds.
Causes of indiscipline in the police are quite many. Some of the officers attached to politicians and other very important notaries often become so rich and powerful that they hardly have regard or respect for their superior officers whom they see as paupers. So, there is a rat-race for posting to juicy beats, such that corruption plays vital role in political postings.
Happily, there are quite a good number of police officers with university education, including some with Ph.D who are, unfortunately, treated in undignifying ways, frustrated and posted to demeaning beats. One of such frustrated police officers is currently a Vice Chancellor of a university. There are many more like him, being asked to go and teach in the Police Academy.
The plan to recruit de-radicalised Boko Haram terrorists into the police is a sad step to take, which the Police Service Commission must resist, for obvious reasons and fears. Similarly, the monthly lectures for police units and formations should be up-graded to become Currency Training Programme (CTP). There are many experts who can volunteer to help the police in such lectures, without asking to be paid.
Conditions of retired police officers are quite pathetic, at least for some of them, arising from delay in the processing and payment of benefits and pensions. It is for the purpose of avoiding such pathetic conditions in retirement that some police officers help themselves while in service. Nobody would want to be a destitute after retirement.
Welfare of police personnel should be given some attention, including housing scheme which is seen as a mere “political talk”. Similarly, the old practice of barracks inspection deserves more attention, as some police barracks now look like slums.
In advanced police training programme, a culture of inculcation and development of the use of personal discretion and intuitive judgement in addressing issues is emphasized. It is sad to hear Nigeria Police personnel described by members of the public as “agbero” or hooligans. This situation calls for a new orientation for the police, especially a restructuring of contents of the training curriculum, to reflect current international standard. State commissioners need orientation too!
The clamour for State police is based largely on the fact that the Nigeria Police has become privatized on a cash-and-carry system of operation. When such a vital and strategic institution is seen by the public as serving vested political interests, it becomes quite difficult to revive the drooping confidence of the masses. Someone once said: “how can the police be my friends when they can be hired to collect rents, debts and beat up people according as they are paid?”
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer, Rivers State University.